Mississippi Immigration Changes

By: Mike McDaniel
By: Mike McDaniel

It's now a full day into a new immigration policy from the President, which has many people in the state who are here illegally, vying for a chance they never thought would happen.

For the last 11 years, 16-year old Judith Soto has called Mississippi home. It's a home that could present plenty of worry, even though she says that hasn't bothered her. That's because she's from Mexico and considered one of the millions of undocumented immigrates across the country.

"I want to go to work and I want to go to college," Soto says.

Now, with an executive order from President Barack Obama she can. That order grants people like Soto the chance to get a job and avoid being deported.

"We're very excited about this program," Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance Legal Director Patricia Ice says. "We don't think it goes far enough."

The order went into effect Wednesday and Ice says several thousand Mississippians are eligible.

"Some of them have been here since they were one or since they were two or three and they don't even know what it's like in their home country," she adds.

The order from the President is not a path to citizenship, but rather a two year assurance for people like soto that they will not be deported and it grants opportunities for employment. It also comes with a list of qualifications. Immigrants must be younger than 31 and have been brought to the US illegally before the age of 16.

They must also be in school or the military and have no felonies. Nationally, an estimated 1.7 million people fall in that category. Some opposing the policy expect falsified applications. Governor Phil Bryant says it's yet another mandate on the state.

"To tell the states first you can't enforce immigration laws, we're going to sue you if we do, and then we're not going to help at all with any costs that might be coming to the state it's just another example of the federal government not doing their job and not allowing the states to do ours," Bryant says.

But for Soto, it's a dream come. Once she gets her high school diploma, her plans are to stay right here in Mississippi, the place she calls home.

Governor Bryant says he does expect immigration reform legislation to once again be introduced during next year's legislation. While it was a back and forth battle earlier this year, reform legislation failed.

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